(I must, of course, include a disclaimer here — I wrote for Power Slam over the course of around 30 issues in 1996-1998 and 2006-7.)
For those readers who were aggrieved at Power Slam being restricted to 40 pages — a subject addressed in this book — this will be more than compensation. At approximately 240,000 words, it’s a perfect example of a title that would only be viable as an e-book as a printed copy would have been unmanageably bulky and prohibitively expensive. For the book’s intended audience, it represents excellent value.
The book is made up of two interspersed sections. The first, which makes up the bulk of the content, is exactly what the title suggests: a truly comprehensive account of both the in-ring and business sides of wrestling over a two decade period. It’s largely in year-by-year sections, though the past five years or so are lumped together (partly because so much of the business was repetitive in this era.)
For each year, Martin recaps the main happenings in each of the major US promotions, then Japan as a whole and, where appropriate, those British promotions aiming at a more hardcore, Internet or travelling crowd. The level of detail is impressively pitched given how easy it would have been to fall into the trap of either skimming over events too quickly or elaborating in such detail as to make even an e-book painfully long.
The style of recapping will be familiar to Power Slam readers: it is unmistakably in Martin’s voice but, while there is plenty of opinion on offer, the line between factual recounting and personal comment is always clear.
The second element of the book is an account of Martin’s time running the magazine, from his initial work experience days in a printing firm right through to his decision to close the magazine. It’s remarkably open, including both a host of financial details and some frank assessments of the decisions Martin made that did or did not work out.
These sections are scattered throughout the book to fit the chronological account, something that might have been disjointed but in fact works well in adding context. For example, we learn how the rise of WCW in 1997 helped Power Slam sales to the point that Martin reversed plans to close the magazine, while there’s an insightful explanation of why the start-stop pushes in WWE in recent years made it so difficult to run profiles of potential new stars.
The balance between the wrestling and magazine accounts is such that the book may not be good value for those who are solely interested in the publishing side. On the other hand, this content is brief enough that it shouldn’t deter those who are primarily reading for the wrestling content.
Those readers who’ve been following wrestling closely for most or all of the Power Slam years may find they are too familiar with much of the events described to benefit from the book, though the format certainly helps put some elements such as the decline of WCW in context. Meanwhile anyone who disliked the opinionated style of Power Slam may not find the book to their tastes.
However, for most of the magazine’s readers, particularly the many who will have not followed the business through the entire period covered, this is an engaging historical account, with the publishing insight a welcome bonus.